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Whale wars saga begins with Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson under investigation

October 5, 2009 |  1:44 pm

Captain_Paul_Watson_2005_Antarctica_Campagin_2

The hype has begun well in advance of another round of the annual war over whaling between the Japanese  and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The former group is preparing for its impending seasonal hunt of mostly minke whales, with a quota of about 1,000 specimens it says are being killed for research purposes. The latter group is preparing for "Operation Waltzing Matilda," which will try to thwart the Japanese effort in and near the Antarctic region during its summer season.

Of course, a crew from Animal Planet will accompany Sea Shepherd and Paul Watson, its famous -- or infamous, depending on your viewpoint -- captain, to gather footage for a third season of the popular "Whale Wars" series.

But will Watson's campaign actually get underway? The Brisbane Times is reporting that Watson's police and court records are being evaluated before he's allowed to enter Australia, which is the starting point for his annual campaigns.

Specifically, Watson, who holds a U.S. passport, is being reviewed because of Sea Shepherd claims that it sank whaling ships in Norway. 

Watson claims politics are behind all of this and is quoted as saying, ''I am not wanted on any warrants [and] I have never received a felony conviction.''

Ironically, the Australian government is trying to persuade Japan to halt its commercial whaling effort (research notwithstanding, the meat  is sold commercially). Japan, meanwhile, has been trying to persuade Australia to help prevent Sea Shepherd from disrupting its hunts and endangering the lives of its crews.

The Australian Federal Police is still reviewing seized video and ship records after last year's campaign, which was dramatic and confrontational. That investigation reportedly was prompted by complaints from Japan.

Watson had hoped to be with Sea Shepherd and its flagship vessel, Steve Irwin, this week as it begins a promotional tour of capital cities. He still plans on being along for the campaign, but it will be no waltz.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo of Capt. Paul Watson courtesy of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

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